WELLINGTON, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- Aquatic life in many of New Zealand's port areas, including a UNESCO World Heritage site, is at risk from copper contamination as a result of leaching from anti-fouling paints on boat hulls, a government research agency said Monday.
Copper concentrations could be above the guidelines for protection of marine aquatic life in many New Zealand marinas, according to the study by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).
"The port areas predicted to be at greatest risk are Nelson and the designated port area of Milford Sound in Fiordland, a world heritage area with high ecological value," said a statement from NIWA.
The study was conducted for New Zealand's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), which assesses the risk of hazardous substances to the environment.
Anti-fouling paints are used to protect the environment by preventing unwanted organisms attaching themselves to the hulls of boats.
Almost all of these paints on New Zealand boats contain copper, which is designed to leach into the water column while vessels are in the water.
"Dissolved copper, the most harmful form to organisms, is measurable in water samples from marinas and ports around New Zealand. Significant copper inputs also come from stormwater discharges, with high concentrations often measured in harbor sediments," said the statement.
NIWA principal scientist Dr Chris Hickey said NIWA would assist the EPA in assessing the anti-fouling paints approved for use in New Zealand waters.
"Based on the results from this study, and information compiled from previous studies, leaching of anti-fouling paints from vessel hulls appears to be the major source of copper in marina waters," Hickey said in the statement.
The remote Milford Sound, in the far southwest of the South Island is known for its extraordinary scenic beauty, and described by New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC) as "one of the most beautiful places in the world."
The area is noted for its iconic Mitre Peak with its sheer rock walls rising 1,692 meters directly from the water and the waterfalls cascading from vertical cliffs along the fiord to the Tasman Sea, says the DOC website.